Strong, Complicated Love

Paper by Bryton La Plante.

In the film Call Me by Your Name (Luca Guadagnino 2017) directed by Luca Guadagnino, we see two unlikely men slowly discover their building desire to be together throughout the course of a summer. This film was made in 2017 in Northern Italy and was a huge leap for the LGBTQ community. Call Me by Your Name portrays the idea of male homosexuality in an open-mind concept and refuses to conform to societal norms. This film was a movement in itself, due to many LGBTQ movies made in the past focusing on characters trying to fit in with the larger crowd instead of sticking to their true self, or one character suffering from the idea of their homosexuality (Zak 2019). Though, this coming-of-age fictional narrative shows that it is ok to embrace your partner, no matter who that may be, in the greatest way possible. I choose to analyze a scene that is towards the middle of the film that captures the feelings, as well as the complications that come with the two characters, Elio (Timothee Chalamet) and Oliver’s (Armie Hammer) relationship. This scene, in particular, encapsulates the secretive, but passionate relationship between Elio and Oliver and provides a clear representation of the theme of the desire and anticipation these two have with each other. The style of the scene, including the mise-en-scene and the cinematography specifically, really help bring along this narrative and show the nearly forbidden craving that they have for one another. This scene is critical because throughout the film, the alone time that Elio and Oliver have together is crucial for their relationship and the kiss that they share here allows the narrative development of their longing for one another and what they are going to do about it.

In this scene, we see Elio and Oliver riding through town to get to Elio’s “secret spot.” They park their bikes they arrived on, and begin frolicking through this lake that is about ankle-deep and surrounded by beautiful trees and greenery. After making small talk and building the tension, Elio and Oliver lay down in the grass beside each other above the lake and share their first kiss, signifying their love for one another. There are many stylistic components that make this scene represent both the physical, but also underlying feelings that these two have for each other. Firstly, the shots throughout this scene capture the beauty of the mise-en-scene as a whole. In each shot, not only does it show the main characters Elio and Oliver, but the cinematography also frames the greenery of the trees and the calmness of the pond. The background sound also plays a key role, as the birds are chirping and the bees are buzzing around their surroundings. The editing is also done with not many cuts and allows a single shot to play in its entirety. This leads the audience to create an emotional connection with the characters, and have the opportunity to read their facial expressions while further understanding the affection between the two. These elements of the mise-en-scene in this scene work together to create a peaceful and calming effect of this secret get-away spot, which represents and reflects that these two feel comfortable and their minds are at ease in these moments. Elio and Oliver feel like they can escape the world when they are with one another, and know that they do not need to pretend to be anybody but themselves. The acting in this scene reflects this, as they both used very calm, and almost quiet tones whilst talking to each other. Elio also did not hesitate to jump on the back of Oliver and play around a bit, symbolizing that Elio knows that he is safe with Oliver and can be his true self.

One way that these shots create continuity is by the use of a montage. At the beginning of the scene, it shows a montage of Elio and Oliver riding their bikes through a path, before they land at the lake. This montage shows multiple shots of the two riding their bikes both in and out of the frame, till the last shot in which they ride up toward the camera and finally drop their bikes to go into the lake. All of the shots showed the two in the middle of the frame and created continuity with the seamless chain of events and camera work. A time in which these shots worked separately from each other is the jump cut from the lake, to when they are laying on the grass. A jump cut is defined as an advance in action (Maestu “Unit 11”), and when a piece of footage is removed to express that there has been a jump forward in time. This editing style is conveyed when there is a shot of Elio jumping onto the back of Oliver as they are walking through the lake, and then the scene jump cuts to the two lying next to each other on the grass, gazing at the sky. This cut is also very prominent because in the first shot there are loud splashing noises in the background because of them moving through the water, and then it suddenly cuts to a very quiet, almost silent noise with the subtlety of a bird chirping in the back. The change in the sound was done to highlight one of the first intimate moments between Elio and Oliver and draw attention to this, soon-to-be, significant moment of their first kiss. These changes throughout the different shots are the director’s way of communicating the meaning of this scene to the viewer. The background noise in this kissing scene is creating a mood in the atmosphere, that will eventually lead to a breaking point for Elio and Oliver. Costuming in this particular shot is also a way in which meaning is portrayed to the viewer. Elio is dressed in a white tee shirt with short colorful shorts on, and Oliver is dressed in a white button-up shirt, with a pair of neutral color shorts on. The fact that they are both wearing white shirts, in contrast with the green background, shows the audience the simplicity of their love for one another.

The shots in the scene convey both information to the audience about the status of their relationship, as well as characterization for both Elio and Oliver. Elio makes it clear in this scene that this lake is where he likes to read and think to himself, making it out to be his safe and secretive spot that is personal to him. Within the scene, there is a shot of Oliver scooping up the water of the lake and splashing it onto his face. What may seem like a passing action, is actually a very informative act done by Oliver at this moment. He is trying to distract himself from the real situation at hand, which is his undeniable connection with Elio. His character is also reflected by this because splashing the water of the hidden lake into his face shows that he wants to further embrace all that Elio is and loves. As previously discussed, one of the last shots of the two standing in the lake involves Elio play-fighting with Oliver and jumping up on his back. Through this action, it shows a breaking point of the two getting more and more comfortable with each other, and is symbolic of their progression as a whole. Elio becoming playful with Oliver is also representative of his character, being the much younger partner of the two. With him being seventeen and Oliver being twenty-four at the time, this shows that the age dynamic is there, but does not affect the way that they view each other.

Meaning is built up in the scene by not only the acting and dialogue but also the mise-en-scene and cinematography, specifically the framing. Each shot was used very carefully and was representative of some way of craving that they have for one another. One of the pictures shows a low-angle shot of Oliver interlocking his fingers behind his head and staring up at the sky. The next shot is straight on of Elio, and then the two of them stand together. Low-angle shots are often used to convey power to the character. This low-angle shot of Oliver, in this case, shows that he holds the power over what was going to happen next between him and Elio. Shortly after, they shared their first kiss together that was initiated by Oliver, which was foreshadowed from that previous shot. The particular shots used in this scene show the impact of Elio and Oliver slowly progressing towards each other and becoming accepting. At first, we can find the two standing and walking far apart from each other in just about every circumstance. Though, throughout the shots, they continuously move closer together until the great climax at the end of the scene. The spatial relationship between two characters is commonly referred to as the 180-degree rule (Maestu “Unit 11”). When characters break this 180-degree rule, it draws attention to the action and makes a statement. As previously mentioned, Elio and Oliver tend to keep a distance between themselves for the majority of the scene. Though, there is one shot in which Elio breaks the 180-degree rule and takes a single step towards Oliver, and is now looking eye-to-eye with him. The explicit meaning behind this move made by Elio is he may just have wanted to get closer to Oliver physically. Though, the implicit behind this action suggests that Elio wants to break down the boundaries between them that are keeping them from being with each other, not only physically, but also mentally.

This scene relates to the overall form of the film in the sense that is it representative of the theme of the desire between Elio and Oliver and the anticipation that they have for each other. Specifically, when they share a kiss at the end of the scene, their lips are not even fully on the others for the whole time. This shows how bad they want each other, but know they fully cannot have each other. The acting done in this scene is impeccable and brings the character’s desire for one another to life. The mise-en-scene in this scene is similar to other scenes of Elio and Oliver having alone time, specifically in the editing and sound. The editing in each of their scenes tends to not have many cuts in it, allowing for one shot to really sink in with the audience. This shows that the director and filmmaker want to zero in on every detail that occurs while they are together because evidently, every move that they make shows their anticipation and want for one another. The sound in this scene also relates to other moments that they share together, as it is often silent with a touch of background noise from nature. For example, in this scene, there are the sounds of chirping birds. In another scene later on in the film, they are sitting on a statue outside together in the nighttime as we hear the crickets in the background. These soft and subtle sounds that we hear in the midst of Elio and Oliver talking create a further emotional effect on the audience and create an ambiance that feels more realistic and personal. These both contribute to the repetitive patterns that we can see throughout the film.

Though there are repetitive patterns in this film such as the editing, mise-en-scene, and sound, this scene is a large part of the developing narrative. It is a breaking point for both Elio and Oliver, in which they finally find the guts to engage with each other more than they ever have before. The ongoing theme of anticipation and desire is still there between them, as they still tend to resist each other in some ways throughout the scene. The long shots and lack of cutting also help along with these two main themes. Due to this editing style, it creates a sequence of events that builds up slowly, leading to the audience’s yearning for either Elio or Oliver to take the initiative.

This film follows what is called a classical Hollywood narrative with a 3-act structure. The scene that I am analyzing marks the midpoint that is in Act 2, in which the characters are raising the stakes of their relationship and they cross a threshold that was lingering in Act 1. The first act ends in the first turning point in which Elio first expresses his feelings towards Oliver, and they decide not to further discuss it. In Act 2, there are a series of events that further complicate their relationship due to them wanting to be together, but they oftentimes find themselves ignoring the other, and Elio has sexual intercourse with a woman. The second act ends in the second turning point in which Elio and Oliver agree to meet up at night to discuss their feelings. It ends in them solidifying their love for each other with the famous line “call me by your name and I’ll call you by mine”, followed by Elio crying and the two mourning about how little time they have left together. The film is ended within Act 3, in which Elio’s parents send the two men off on a three-day vacation together to say their final goodbyes and embrace every last moment. The end of the film then flashes forward in time, in which Oliver calls Elio’s house to announce that he is engaged, leaving Elio heartbroken. This scene fits in Act 2, due to it being one of the events that begin to further complicate, though progress their relationship even further which is essentially the end goal.

Call Me by Your Name relays the complicated relationship that is Elio and Oliver. Through this film, Guadignino shows the process of these two characters as they go through ups and downs, and struggle to find a balance between their love and desire for one another while keeping their boundaries to avoid any misconduct with Elio’s family. This leads to anticipation to be built up in the film and is evidently shown in the scene analyzed. The editing, sound, mise-en-scene, and cinematography all play a role in making this scene powerful and giving the audience a glance into the mind of the characters. This scene is important because it is one of the first moments in which Elio and Oliver break down one of their walls and give into each other. With that being said, many aspects of the scene also show that they cannot fully give in just yet, and is very representative of the feelings that they are trying to compress. Overall, it communicates the multiple different themes of the film and dives in to show both the emotions, as well as resistance that Elio and Oliver go through in the course of this cinematic piece.

Works Cited
Bous, Victor. “The 180-Degree Rule Explained.” Ultimate Live Streaming Hub – Restream Blog, Ultimate Live Streaming Hub – Restream Blog, 29 Oct. 2021,
Zak, Gabriella. “More than a Pretty Picture: Call Me by Your Name’s Subversion of Hollywood’s Heteronormative Portrayal of Homosexuality.” MIT Comparative Media Studies/Writing, 4 June 2019, ywoods-heteronormative-portrayal-of-homosexuality/.
“The Three-Act Structure in Screenwriting.” Arc Studio Blog, 18 Dec. 2019,
Maestu, Nicholas. “Unit 11: The Effect of Editing: Continuity Editing & Alternative Editing Patterns” Online presentation. 12 November 2021. odule_item_id=1405623

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